Being in lockdown with small children is not easy; far from it. Lockdown has shaken up our lives in ways we couldn’t have expected. We’ve all been affected in different ways. It closed the playgroups and cafes parents rely on for socializing and sanity. It prevented parents from accessing their support systems, including grandparent visits and playdates.
Never again will the school holidays feel daunting, now we’ve experienced lengthy lockdowns at home with our children. Although some have enjoyed spending more time together as a whole family, others have found it claustrophobic to be home for so long.
Toddlers aren’t the easiest lockdown companions. Whereas older children can entertain themselves for a while, younger kids are dependent on you for most things. And then there are the tantrums.
Anyone who has ever parented a toddler will remember the feeling of just needing to get them out of the house on a bad day—the days when they’re bouncing off the walls and experiencing big emotions.
Coats on, shoes on, get out of the house, and breathe. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible during lockdowns because of the health protocols and the need for social distancing outside. If you don’t have the luxury of outdoor space, you could be stuck indoors with your little ones for most of the lockdown.
How to keep your kids occupied during lockdown
If you’re currently locked down with a toddler, you’re probably keen for ideas and inspirations for ways to keep them busy during the lockdown. First of all, lower your expectations and remember that all kids love playing. You need to think of as many activities for kids to do around the house as you can. These aren’t normal times; you don’t have to hold yourself to the high parenting standards of pre-pandemic life.
It’s ok if your children watch more television than usual and eat more oven food. But you still need to monitor their screen time. It’s not the end of the world if you let your high standards slip a little during the lockdown, and it could save you a whole lot of stress.
Things to do with your family during lockdown
Every family is finding lockdowns tough for one reason or another. Whether it’s the lack of space or the constant demands for snacks, rest assured you’re not alone in cursing lockdown. It can be tough to fill the days whether you have a houseful of kids or an only child. However, here are some things you can do to make lockdown easier, no matter how old your kids are:
Have a routine
Routine can help us all to stay sane. School days are regimented, so suddenly being at home with no routine can be challenging for kids. If you’ve noticed your child acting up since lockdown began, a routine might help prevent this. You can create a go-to list so you won’t have a hard time thinking about activities every day. Younger children especially will benefit from routine during the lockdown.
It doesn’t need to be a to-the-minute strict army routine; a simple idea of when things should happen will do. For example, try to get up at the same time each day. Make sure you eat family meals at a similar time each day; this might help reduce the constant demands for snacks.
Get them involved in the daily grind
Children of all ages can take part in family life. For example, you can teach older children how to cook their favorite meals and do the laundry during the lockdown. Toddlers can get involved, too. This is a great help for their motor skills. For example, younger kids can help sort laundry into piles, unload the dishwasher (remove any sharps or breakables first), and pass your ingredients when you’re cooking dinner or baking afternoon tea.
Lockdown is a great excuse to show children how the home functions. They’re usually busy at school and clubs so might not realize how much work is involved in running a home. Think of lockdown as a school of life and teach kids skills they will use long after they move out.
Fun things to do in lockdown with younger kids
Try the following games to keep your kids entertained during a lockdown:
You have a whole house full of things to sell, so this game can potentially be never-ending. Let your toddler set up a grocery store or toy shop you can visit. If you have a toy till, great; if not, you can use your imagination for making payments.
Roleplaying in shops will help your child improve their communication skills and help them learn about going to shopping (something they’re missing out on in lockdown). Roleplay can teach kids important life skills in a fun way.
Make, make, make
Have plenty of paper and coloring pencils and paint. Your child will love getting creative and making a mess. You can theme the activities if you like – similar to how they would be at nursery – or go wild and get stuck in. Pinterest is full of excellent toddler craft activities you can try, like decorating wooden spoons as people.
Set up an arts and crafts station so your toddlers can gravitate towards it whenever they fancy making something. Don’t leave paints out though; that’s asking for trouble. Stock the station with paper plates, plain paper, cardboard, and pencils in as many colors as you can find. Have kids decorate paper plates as animal masks, or butcher paper you can use for wrapping presents for the next family member who has a lockdown birthday.
Toddler lockdown games on Zoom
Zoom has become a lockdown staple across the world. Family members and friends are staying connected online during the pandemic. You can set up a virtual tour too! Young children aren’t great at sitting still for Zoom calls so you’ll need to keep them short and sweet. Get your family involved with coming up with ideas for fun zoom activities you can try. Here are a couple of activities family members can try over Zoom:
Encourage the family members to find some storybooks they can read over Zoom. If this is an activity they usually share, the grandparents will be pleased to keep this going during the lockdown. Snuggle up under a blanket with your toddler and listen to the story together.
For a younger toddler, peekaboo will work almost as well over Zoom as it would in person. The grandparent will need a teatowel to hide behind, and then they can reappear while shouting ‘Peekaboo’. Your toddler might giggle and look behind the tablet to see where grandpa has gone.
Lockdown toddler activities at home
If you’re looking for fun activities to pass some time during the day, try these:
Your family vacation may have been canceled, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon sandcastles altogether. Kinetic sand is great for indoors because it’s easy to clean up afterward. In addition, your child will be able to shape and mold the sand with as many scoops and containers as you can find. They can even use it as a setting for their small world play. Activities like this are great for fine motor skills development. Learning during lockdown is still possible even while kids are playing around the house.
You can’t beat den building when it comes to rainy day activities. Children of all ages love building dens and then snuggling into them and hiding from the world. Use blankets, sleeping bags and a few sheets to construct a den where you and your toddler can bunker down and read stories. Once you’ve finished, your toddlers can play there with their teddies for a few minutes so you can enjoy a cup of tea in peace.
Outdoor activities for toddlers during lockdown
Lockdowns have varied hugely from country to country. While some have spent unlimited time outdoors, others have been restricted to one hour of exercise each day. Whether you have a garden or a balcony, you should be able to find a place for these outdoor toddler activities during a lockdown:
Make a fairy door
You’ll need to decorate your door and position it in the perfect place in your outdoor space. Don’t have any outdoor space? Try hiding it in nearby woods you can visit easily. Next, choose some plants to plant near the door. Finally, you can turn your fairy garden into a small world area with toy fairies to unleash your child’s imagination. This is such a fun idea and could provide hours of entertainment.
Go on a wildlife hunt
Whether you spot sea life at the beach near your home or search for insects on your balcony, this is a great activity to try with young kids. You can take binoculars on your hunt so you can look closely at the trees above. Count how many insects and birds you can see. With older toddlers, you can draw pictures of the animals you see. Older children may like to look the animals up in their books and write down fun facts about them. If this keeps your kids occupied, look for other fun projects you can try in your garden.
Keeping toddlers active during lockdown
If you’re usually out and about with your toddler, it might be a shock suddenly to be stuck at home all the time. Without a daily runaround at the local park and an hour spent chasing friends at playgroup, you might worry your toddler isn’t active enough at the moment. Here are some tips to keep your toddler active during lockdown:
Make use of your outdoor time
Whether it’s an hour a day or more, make sure you use it. Spending time in nature is good for you and your toddler so make this a priority during lockdown. Even when the weather is terrible, wrap up warm and go and have some fun. Throw snowballs or jump in puddles or walk through the glorious sunshine – just get out there.
Do a daily yoga workout
Yoga is an excellent exercise for kids, and it’s a wonderful way to unwind at the end of the day. Find a kids yoga tutorial on YouTube to follow and include this in your daily routine. Your child will love doing yoga with you, and you’ll both benefit from the endorphins.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring; a kitchen disco is a fun way to stay active. Blast out your favorite songs and leap around the kitchen together whenever you need some joy. Get out of breath, try out silly dance moves, and make each other laugh.
Create a fun and safe obstacle course for your toddler by scattering cushions on the floor and pretending there are crocodiles ready to snap at their feet. Another fun obstacle course idea is to tell your toddlers what they have to do next: crawl under the kitchen table, hop to the door, wriggle like a worm over the rug… This keeps them active and will probably have them in giggles the entire time.
Lockdown school holiday ideas
If you have older kids, you might find the school holidays during lockdown are particularly challenging. There’s no schoolwork set to occupy your older kids, and everybody is growing increasingly grumpy. Try not to panic. You can turn things around and make this the best school holiday ever. Try the following with your older kids and toddlers alike:
I wish jar
An I wish jar is a place to put all those things you wish you could do. For example, ‘I wish I could hug Grandma’, or ‘I wish we could go swimming’. Encourage the kids to write down every ‘I wish’ thought that crosses their minds.
Every so often, reach into the jar and pluck out a wish. Now you have to try to recreate it. A hug from Grandma could be replicated by making a life-size drawing of your child and sending it through the post for grandma to hug. Swimming could be replaced with a paddling pool and some inflatable toys. You’ll have to get creative and make some memories.
This activity is ideal for those with a garden but it can work just as well if you live with a balcony. Challenge your family to create a wildlife-friendly garden (or balcony). Older children will love researching how to go about this; they might already have learned this in school.
Teach woodwork skills by constructing a birdhouse together and get your toddler involved in the decorating. If you’re creating a bug hotel, have a scavenger hunt on your daily walk to find all the sticks and pine cones you’ll need. Chances are, with a toddler, you already have pockets full of these things anyway.
Board games for children at home
You might think board games for toddlers is an impossible idea but there are some really great, basic board games they can get involved in. Try a board game like the memory game, bingo, or even snakes and ladders. Your older children can get involved with a board game too, or they might like to play games like pick up sticks, card games like Uno or Go Fish, or even Twister. There’s a board game for all ages lurking in your cupboard, probably those you had when you were a child.
Family time capsule
A neat idea is to make a family time capsule you can bury in the garden and plan to dig up in a certain amount of time. Kids can choose one or two things they want to put into the capsule; you can write a little note about what is happening during lockdown. You might think you won’t want to look back on this time but it’s a great way to open a discussion about coping and resilience with your kids.